04 January 2013

Flaky over food

Trying to be vegetarian when eating-out with friends, one is often drawn to order the fish plate, and very frequently that would be called 'flake' and occasionally some other names like Butterfish.
Trying not to be a hypocrite, this New Year I resolve to stop ordering it under any name.
Shark is over-fished apparently, and author Tim Winton, oddly for a surfer, is campaigning to save them. Did you know that the gummy shark, a.k.a. 'flake' is absolutely harmless, and poses no threat to humans?
The trade constrictions caused by World War 2 prevented Australian manufacturers getting cod-liver oil from Canada, so they began using sharks as their source. 'Give your growing child Shark-Liver Oil' was never shouted at the market though. 'Get some shark and chips' isn't either.
I have always loved the c.1960 fibreglass shark signs mounted over fish shops across Victoria. There is one in GlenHuntly Road, GlenHuntly I saw from a tram one time, and the one in my wonderful photo above is on a beach strip in East Gippsland.  I love that photo. A shark surrounded by 'fairy' lights.

UPDATE: thanks to Donkey Blog for alerting me to the wonderful 1939 Style Moderne Fish Creek Hotel, which has a huge fish sculpture laying across it's parapet. (click hotel link above for excellent images, then visit Donkey for a post on something I know so well it made me laugh to tears)


  1. Fish is something I simply cannot eat, but flake/shark is a treat for me. I try not to eat too much because as well as the tendency for fish shops to 'grill' fish/flake using oil, I'm sure I had read somewhere that too much flake means too much mercury. And heaven only knows what else is in the water where some fishing is done.
    I don't understand why more cafs/eateries don't provide one or two decent non-meat meals. It takes 5 minutes to knock up a salad with 20 or more different veges in it.

    The shark signs are right up there with Peters Ice Cream cones.

  2. When R's late parents were visiting here in the eighties, his father liked the fish from the fish and chip shop, until he found out it was shark, and then refused to eat it.

  3. FAAAABULOUS sign!! If it WERE marketed as 'shark & chips' I bet that'd create a new demand - the young and uninformed would think that was really cool!!

  4. That is a truly wonderful sign. Our fish shops are more than a little dishonest and try not to tell customers that they are eating shark. And fish is often a very small sideline to burgers these days. Sad. Or I find it so.

  5. Love the sign!

    I won't eat 'flake' because of the mercury, and because shark numbers have been decimated. Shark Fin is a very dark industry, and so wasteful that the rest of the animal is dumped still alive overboard. Sad....

    I'm veggo, but eat fish, so that makes us 'pescatarian'? I don't tell people I eat fish because it's too boring trying explain the difference.

    Happy New Year to you! :0)

  6. and did you know that the Orange Ruffy, a species of fish which has only been known about since the mid-1980s, has regularly been swapped for shark and sold as 'flake', but is now, too, near extinction (OK, this is an issue close to my heart).

    Although not a fish shop sign, do a Google images search for the Fish Creek Hotel (in Southern Victoria) - it's a fantastic, fibre-glass fish if ever I saw one.

    Happy New Year, love Donkey

  7. Hi Annie

    As you know, I live in the Victorian fishing village of Larrikin's End where shark'n'neeps is the local speciality. I'm a vegetarian at home and a pescatarian when dining out, largely because the Penne al Forno Ketchup usually costs the same as the Lobster Thermidor.



  8. Flake has such a non-fish flavour. What happened to fish shops that sold couta, whiting, blue grenadier and all the other really good fishy stuff? I used to be able to order freshly grilled green prawns (no flour) at our local, Greek owned F & C shop, but now, under new non-Greek ownership, just the dreadful crumbed variety is on offer.
    Nelly M.

  9. I remember Greg Fleet used to do a really funny bit about sharks watching people eating flake at coastal restaurants.
    And it was flake that ended my 4 year stint at being a veggo.

  10. Thank you for posting that Ann. I didn't know shark was overfished. I sometimes have the default fish on those rare occasions when I visit the beach front, but now I will make a more concerted decision.

    The pics are beautiful as usual.

    Thanks so much for the lovely comments on P&C and Ruby. I love replying to them!